Meze Audio can seemingly do no wrong but as they pivot to a dynamic driver over their isodynamic hybrid array relationship with Rinaro, can they still deliver a coherent and moving sound with these 109 Pro open-backed headphones?
Whilst the answer might seem inevitable, with a resounding yes, the proof will always be in the listening, whether it is a rainy Sunday morning or a breezy Tuesday afternoon. If the Meze ‘entry level’ closed-backed 99 Neo are anything to go by, this 109 will be a joy, but let’s see.
These Meze Audio 109 Pro are circumaural open-backed headphones and they depart from the flagship ELITE, Empyrean (and the LIRIC) headphones in that they are driven by a full range 50mm diameter dynamic driver as opposed to the Rinaro-designed isodynamic arrays. The dynamic driver is made of a carbon fibre cellulose composite, that is crafted in a W-shaped dome. This driver is supported by a Beryllium coated polymer that is just 22 microns thick. The use of beryllium, Meze claims:
help suppress unwanted resonances, giving the 109 Pro its neutral, vivid, and transparent character
This diaphragm is then supported by a copper-zinc membrane, and this is in turn encased in a high-precision aluminium frame that houses the neodymium magnet. The driver assembly is angled slightly so it is parallel to the ear, and it is held in a black walnut wood ear assembly. Being open-backed, this assembly has room to breathe and there is no scope for reflected transients. There are black velour cushions on each ear designed for comfort and “lengthy listening sessions”. The whole assembly uses Meze’s iconic head assembly with a self-adjusting frame over the headband.
The quoted frequency range of these Meze Audio 109 Pro is an incredible 5Hz – 30KHz with a sensitivity of 112dB SPL at 1KHz, 1mW. The claimed impedance is a fairly easy driving 40 Ω.
There is no element of any Meze Audio products that I have come across that hints at shortcuts or other savings that affect quality. Here, with these Meze Audio 109 Pro the same attention to detail is evident from the sumptuous velour ear cups to the solid headband and support assembly. The soft feel of walnut wood ear casing has a note of the highest quality, smooth to the touch and light on the head. There is a level of detail, for example in the ear cups or on the headband that is a delight to look for and notice.
Out of the Box
The Meze Audio 109 Pro unboxing experience, extends this time to a ‘premium Apple-esque’ experience with an absolutely gorgeous gold logo on the front of the box, opening to a soft feel EVA travel case housing the headphones and their accessories that include a 1.5 m soft TPE cable, with black aluminium casings ending with a 3.5 mm jack, there are a 3 m long version too. There is a gold-plated 6.3 mm adapter.
The cables can be upgraded through the website with Furukawa PCUHD copper premium cables that carry an array of termination options for the more discerning listener.
There is a warranty period with these headphones of 2 years.
Meze Audio 109 Pro weigh in at just 375 grams without cables.
Meze Audio 109 Pro price is £769, which is distributed in the UK by SCV https://www.scvdistribution.co.uk/product/meze-109-pro-open-back-dynamic-headphones
Meze Audio offer a headphone package not only with dCS (the Lina headphone stack is over £30,000) but also with iFi Audio. The Meze Audio 109 Pro are reviewed here with the iFi Zen CAN, fed by the Zen DAC v2, offered on Meze’s website as a tailored package featuring a fully balanced signal path. Also here is the new Earmen headphone (and preamplifier) stack that features the Earmen CH-Amp, the streaming Staccato and the Tradutto DAC. It is a tremendous package and one that is wholly suited to these Meze Audio 109 Pro. I’ve also got the Chord Hugo 2 here, fed by the 2Go streamer.
These Meze Audio 109 Pro are supremely comfortable, the ear cups are soft and light on the head, and they’re not tight or clamped on overly. Being dynamic drivers, they can be argued to be lighter in design and they feel as much. The headband is soft and fits perfectly. The cable is rubberish but plenty long enough, the shorter lead that seems a bit unnecessary given that travel with these headphones is unlikely.
The headphones are of course open-backed, so they leak noise heavily. They are not really for external use, in design or construction.
The first bit of listening has been with the newly arrived Earmen CH-Amp stack. My first impressions of the stack are wonderful, it should be at the price, and there is a dominant soundstage from this platform and the 109s. It is clear these headphones are ‘mustard’, however critical listening requires a familiar source.
Chord Hugo 2
The Hugo 2 is the go-to source with this type of premium headphone and sure enough, the clean bass in the 109s shines through, it is a bit lighter than I was expecting; I have run them in for a good 48 hours plus non-stop using an Atlas burn-in disc so they should be fairly settled in. Taking Benson Boone’s GHOST TOWN (Tidal Master 16-bit, 44.1kHz) the swirling piano and controlled bass are clearly separated in the soundstage. There is more swirling, this time with George Harrison’s and others’ guitars in My Sweet Lord (Tidal Master 24-bit, 48kHz) and you can clearly listen for the crisp separation in the various rhythm and leads here.
Vocals feel particularly easy in this 109, Taylor Swift’s vocal in All Too Well (Tidal Master 24-bit, 48kHz) is beautiful and languid, matching the lazy drum rhythm. Other vocals come across softly, for example, Ella Fitzgerald’s in But Not For Me (Tidal FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) and wonderfully in Loyle Carner’s Ottolenghi (Tidal FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) where the snare shake is also just dreamy. The train at the end of the track is so clear it made me jump! While you’re on Loyle Carner, make sure you listen to his track Loose Ends (Tidal FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) with Jorja Smith (what a voice), it is a very pure moment about hanging on to love.
There is a tremendous amount of detail in here, the bits you get from headphones like these are the transient moments, the echoes from the recording studio walls, the rasp at the edge of the voice. Take Jamie Cullum’s Gran Torino (Tidal Master 24-bit, 44.1kHz) as an example of this, it is absolutely terrific and as clean as it can be.
I often listen to the acapella intro to Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (Tidal Master 24-bit, 48kHz) for more fleeting dynamics and the crack in the drums as the song takes off, here the 109s drums are fast and clean. These clean and tight drums are evident in Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing (Tidal FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz). The cymbals are satisfying and resounding after the guitar intro too, brilliant.
The Tidal Playlist used with these headphones is here.
iFi Zen CAN
Turning to the iFi Zen CAN, I am able to repeat the detail and vocal response, though apparently needing a bit of gain in the CAN to lift the presentation. The XBass option also adds a bit of volume to the overall soundstage, the 109 delivers this improvement. Nonetheless, the Meze Audio 109 Pro offer a superb presentation. My family is tired of my evening sessions with these leaky open-backed headphones, but I am not.
Headphones can offer audiophile moments at a more reasonable price. An investment in headphones like this should last a lifetime. With the warranty and the replaceable parts that Meze builds into their products, these are long-term investments. The midrange, vocals, in particular, have a warmth but level of detail that is hard to find, anywhere. There is an open sound presentation here that is full of detail, yet easy on the ears.
Cable is no noise
Upgrade options will appeal
Full details are on the company’s site.